In lean a philosophy, waste and inefficiency are to be removed across all aspects of product life. PLM has emerged as a modern tactical approach to increase the yield of an organization. Over the years many concepts and scientific threads have gone into PLM. This include various practical areas Computer Aided Design (CAD), Engineering Data Management (EDM), Product Data Management (PDM), Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM), Sales & Service and Disposal & Recycling, and various fields of knowledge or enterprise application systems such as Materials Resource Planning (MRP), Enterprise Resources Planning (ERP, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM).
PLM has been an established approach for OEMs to increase their productivity, improve their product quality, speed up delivery, and rise the profit and to become more resourceful. However, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) like foundries, who are suppliers to OEMs, are still in their early stages without adopting this strategic business approach. Hence to improve their understanding the basic concepts, the tools and strategies for PLM are presented. In this they selected and implemented appropriate PLM strategies to the small foundry, an attempt was made to assess the immediate performance outcomes following the implementation of PLM tools (commercial PLM software and digital manufacturing tools).
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
Manufacturing companies are compounded with many business encounters such as global competition, increasing labour costs, increasing product complexity and engineering product data, and more administrative and governmental standards and regulations. In order to pursue a more modest business model, they have been keen to utilize the new quality of ICT to enhance the collaboration among their customers, suppliers and shareholders.
The word “collaboration” is frequently associated with notions like cooperation, coordination and communication, and is often used in different situations without any consistent and precise definition. Hence Fig.1 is provided here to explain the characterization of these conceptions and their interrelations. These beginnings can be distinct by two factors the level of interaction or interoperation and the level of integration. As shown in vertical axis, integration is accumulative. Cooperation involves the integration of information, of goals and in addition the integration of performances. Finally, collaboration implies the full integration of information, of goals, of performances and the integration of actions in terms of operations as well. PLM helps fast incorporation of systems by providing a platform for intense exchanges using modern technologies.
Fig1. Collaboration ability enabled by advanced technology
PLM can largely be considered as an informational core and is accessed through user-friendly interfaces (Graphical User Interfaces or Application Programming Interfaces) arranged with various functional areas in such a way that information is shared and secured among each part through some collaboration protocols. Most of the enterprises system applications such as CRM, ERP and SCM are too embedded in PLM. The tools in PLM may contain CAD/CAE/CAM or (CAX) software, DFA/DFM or (DFX) software, tools for Computer Aided Process Planning (CAPP), e-commerce tools, office tools for records, encryption software for security and storage, and other user interfaces for hardware tools, interactive program tools and digital industrialized tools such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines, RP machines etc. All this applications or interfaces may be retrieved either through intranet or internet facilities. The available PLM software tools can be gathered in three groups
1. Information management (e.g. methods for categorising, structuring, classifying, modelling, recovering, sharing, disseminating, imagining and archiving product, process and project associated data).
2. Process management (e.g. methods for modeling, structuring, planning, operating and controlling formal or semi-formal processes like engineering release processes, review processes, change processes or notification processes).
3. Application integration (e.g. methods for defining and managing interfaces between PLM and different authoring applications like CAD, CAM, CAE and integrated enterprise software such as ERP, SCM or CRM).
Fig2. Structure of collaborations in PLM portal for major inter and intra organizational activities.
Proper strategies should be employed by the management. Since strategies depends on the market situations and the available wealth within an organization, collecting proper data about the organization, identification and selection of appropriate plans, communicating the same in the organization and its proper application are the major actions of a visionary management There are many which can be accepted by the association. Some of these strategies are as follows.
• Increased customer involvement
• Customization of products
• Highest functionality products and services
• Most robust product or services
• Widest range of products and services
• Best processes
• Standard product and services
• Fastest time to market
• Value adding life cycle
• Lowest cost competitor
• Longest life product
Each of these strategies may be wisely applied in the organization through proper actions by considering global competition, complexity of products and standards and procedures posed by government or OEMs.
PLM software includes many ideas and technologies that enable the users to access, share, manipulate, reason and inform the product information. Otherwise, they help in converting the sequential information flow into parallel flow within functional areas and increasing the collaborations in an organization. Commercially available PLM software, their retailers and their client focus are presented in Table 1. However, the very drive of PLM software vendors is to transform all the tacit knowledge concerns to product life cycle into the tangible or virtual knowledge. Most of the PLM vendors targets SMEs. However, SAP, Dassault Systems, Siemens PLM Software and PTC have PLM software preferably for Medium and Large Enterprises. Custom made industry solutions for OEMs (automobile, aerospace etc.) are also obtainable in market.
Table2 PLM software
Description of the Case Study
A foundry in Belgaum foundry cluster (India) which produces impeller casting was taken for the case study. The customer firm (Tier1 Supplier) is within 8 km from the foundry and was in request of superior castings to meet the requirements of OEMs. However, these demands were highly fluctuating depending on the market conditions. Hence, the foundry firm (Tier 2 Supplier) was in great difficulty to meet the resources (men, material, machines) in order achieve the customer demands. Subcontracting the work due to the shortage of employees and machines was not a wise decision as per their management. Also, there were issues with shortage of materials meanwhile inventory control was not a healthy practice in the foundry. As a strategic choice, this foundry was interested to adopt PLM and check the benefit of using PLM tools. As a strategic decision, this foundry was interested to adopt PLM and check the benefit of using PLM tools. A few PLM strategies implemented were
(i) Shorter time to market
(iii) Best process and
(iv) Minimization of production cost.
To march towards this plan of actions, a few healthy practices and digital manufacturing concepts were also introduced to the foundry. Further, to understand the immediate advantages, a qualitative assessment was done on various activities in foundry in which developedment of impeller casting was done with and without the intervention of PLM tool.
The healthy practices were introduced in the foundry and includes timely announcement among users through commercial PLM tool (Teamcenter), in-house computer aided design, structural analysis and casting process simulation, communication with the customer for the finalization of product and delivery schedule, assessment of man-hours and its assessment, online monitoring of resources, and accounting.
The introduction of RP machine as a digital manufacturing tool considerably decreases the time and energy involved in the production of master patterns. In addi-ion to this, the usage of polymer/plastic patterns compared to wooden pattern have several advantages such as enhanced pattern life in product cycle, great dimension accuracy, reduction in inspection and rework and also the reusability.
The estimated time taken to build the casting with conventional technology is found around 25 hrs however with PLM technology is around 8 hrs 10 min. A one-third decrease in time is observed by this modernization. This decrease of time is noticeable since the activities also include new strong practices such as computer aided design and analysis, and digital manufacturing using RP. Since CAD, CAE and RP can be done by a CAX Expert, there is an development in labor utilization too. Hence, it can be suggested that the introduction of healthy practices, its execution using a viable PLM software, and use of digital manufacturing tools in foundry has significantly reduced the information incompetence and implementation inefficiency
Table2 Immediate benefits in implementing PLM
PLM as a tool which helps to quantify the performance over a period also helps in meeting the customer expectations about both the product and the process (how they get, what they want, and what they actually get). It is high time to implement PLM tools in modern foundries to enhance their collaborations and decrease their inefficiency by accurate and prompt usage of information.
Being sceptical, most of the foundries frequently state that the huge capital cost, no availability of skilled labours, installation time (appropriate system integration), insufficient training and support, reluctance towards contribution and the financial risks involved are a few explanations for not accepting the PLM technology. However, it is recommended that the foundries or their clusters who are the providers of multiple complex or value added products, especially those belongs to OEMs of automobile, medical and aerospace and defence sectors, should implement PLM technology so that they can improve new and innovative products in a very short period of time by meeting the demands of OEMs and hence gain great advantages over their global competitors.